The Authors Of Summer's Biggest Books On Astrology, Murder, Life Crisis, And More
There's nothing better than learning more about the books you love from the authors who wrote them. In the interviews below, all exclusive to Bustle, the authors of summer's biggest books talk about their creative process, their identities, their families, and all the many inspirations for their books.
Casey McQuiston, author of the breakout hit Red, White & Royal Blue, spills the details on why she creates astrological birth charts for all her characters. Casey Cep, author of Furious Hours, reveals just how much research she did about Harper Lee and the spree of alleged murders that inspired her. Elizabeth Acevedo, author of With the Fire on High, dishes on the reason why she wanted to write about a teenage chef. Pam Grossman, author of Waking the Witch, talks about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and why witches are having a moment right now. (Hint: It's about power and politics.) And Hafsah Faizal, author of We Hunt the Flame, explains why she wrote a fantasy set in a world inspired by the Arab world.
In the interviews below, you might just learn something new about one of your favorite books. Or, you might discover a soon-to-be favorite. Read them all:
'Red, White & Royal Blue' author Casey McQuiston, interviewed by Kerri Jarema
Casey McQuiston is the author of Red, White & Royal Blue, a romance novel about the love affair of the First Son of the United States and the Prince of England. In the interview with Bustle, she talks about all the character details — birth charts, Hogwarts houses, Myers-Briggs types, and more — that she devised for her book.
"I think the rise of astrology is directly proportional to the rise of young people with depression and anxiety, honestly — and I say that sincerely as a young person with depression and anxiety," McQuiston says. "We’re all out here joking our way through existential dread and trying to figure out who we are, and I think for a lot of us, astrology provides some kind of order and a framework to make sense of ourselves and our relationships and the things that happen in our lives. I’m just excited that readers are as into these charts as I am!"
'Mostly Dead Things' author Kristen Arnett, interviewed by Rebecca Renner
Kristen Arnett is the author of Mostly Dead Things, a Florida-set novel about one woman's journey to healing after her father's death and her lover's abandonment.
"Everything is growing, creeping,” Arnett tells Bustle. "It feels very juicy, like, just living all the time. Floridians are confronted daily with the reality of life’s finitude. It’s a place associated with death, for sure, but it’s also unavoidably, in-your-face full of life."
'On Being Human' author Jennifer Pastiloff, interviewed by E. Ce Miller
Jennifer Pastiloff is the author of On Being Human, a memoir about radical listening, vulnerability, and the long, wild road to happiness.
""Radical listening is bearing witness. Listening without an agenda or an intention of 'when is it my turn to speak?'" Pastiloff tells Bustle. "For me, it’s a physical act; because of my hearing loss I have to really get in your face to experience it. If you watch me listening to someone you will notice I tune in with my whole body."
'Waking The Witch' author Pam Grossman, interviewed by Peg Aloi
Pam Grossman is the author of Waking of Witch, an exploration of how witches have been culturally portrayed throughout history and why they're having a moment right now.
"The average person still thinks of a witch as completely imaginary or completely diabolical," she says. "Even people who understand what modern witchcraft is have a tendency to think witches are 'crazy.' I’ve had almost 99% positive feedback, but I see some pushback on social media, usually from men. There are people who are very conservative and think that feminism and witchcraft are devilish and the downfall of western society, or it’s people on the other end of the political spectrum who think that witchcraft is ridiculous, because, honey, haven’t you heard of science? In both cases these are not people open to the idea of witchcraft as a form of spirituality."
'When We Left Cuba' author Chanel Cleeton, interviewed by Virginia Isaad
Chanel Cleeton is the author of When We Left Cuba, the follow-up to her wildly successful novel Next Year in Havana. In the book, Beatriz is recruited by the C.I.A. to help take down Fidel Castro, the man who forced her and her family to flee Cuba.
""It was important to me to fictionalize the family, but also to make everything that happened in the books historically accurate and realistic," Cleeton tells Bustle. "Some of the events are quite dramatic, but are very much real struggles that people faced during these time periods, and at their heart, these books are meant to honor those struggles."
'We Hunt The Flame' author Hafsah Faizal, interviewed by Suzanne Samin
Hafsah Faizal is the author of We Hunt the Flame, an Arabian-inspired fantasy novel about a teenage girl who disguises herself as man to face-off with the evil that threatens her people.
"By making [Arawiya] feel [like home], it makes it accessible to a non-Arab reader,” she says. “My goal was always to introduce people to a world that isn't as distorted as they think. It's just normal. It's just home to all these people. And I mean, I always thought if I can introduce someone to this world and teach them that it's not as bad as you think it is, then I have achieved my goal."
'The Farm' author Joanne Ramos, interviewed by E. Ce Miller
Joanne Ramos is the author of The Farm, a novel about a luxurious, elite home for surrogate mothers. Called "the Hosts," these women produce babies for the wealthiest members of society — at a steep cost to their own well-being.
"As a mother myself I would imagine: What does it feel like to take care of other people’s children all day if you’re a mother yourself?" Ramos tells Bustle. "What is it like for a mother who can’t give her own kids 'the best' of everything, but is employed helping other people give their kids the best?"
'Juliet The Maniac' author Juliet Escoria, interviewed by Cristina Arreola
Juliet Escoria is the author of Juliet the Maniac, an autofiction novel about one teenage girl's battle with mental illness.
"Juliet the teenaged narrator is not the same person as Juliet the adult narrator, who is not the same as me, the person, but they are all mirrors of each other," Escoria tells Bustle. "In order to write this book, I had to let this teenaged girl occupy my brain and life for years. It felt like an invasion, which felt similar to the onset of my bipolar disorder, which seemed interesting to me, and therefore like something important to add to the book."
'With the Fire on High' author Elizabeth Acevedo, interviewed by Eva Recinos
Elizabeth Acevedo is the National Book Award-winning author of With the Fire on High, a YA novel about a teenage mother on a quest to discover if her passion — cooking — is something she can build a life around.
"I did want to play with the ways that sometimes we want to make maybe robots of young people," Acevedo tells Bustle. "We want them to look and sound a certain kind of way and what they're bringing to us is outside of what we might know how to deal with."
'Furious Hours' author Casey Cep, interviewed by Sadie Trombetta
Casey Cep is the author of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, a book about a brutal series of suspected murders that inspired Harper Lee to write a true crime book — a book that was never published.
"In the way I think most people do when they hear about this case, it just felt kind of unbelievable," Cep tells Bustle. "A rural minister accused of killing five family members for the insurance money was gunned down at the funeral of his last victim? Maybe he was a practitioner of voodoo? It just doesn't quite feel real."
'I Miss You When I Blink' author Mary Laura Philpott, interviewed by Kerri Jarema
Mary Laura Philpott is the author of I Miss You When I Blink, a memoir-in-essays about what happens when you discover that despite "having it all," you still feel like an anxious mess.
"For anyone who has even a speck of perfectionist tendencies, there can be this mindset that you have to get every aspect of your life perfect before you can be happy," Philpott tells Bustle. "I wasted a lot of mental and emotional energy trying to get every plate to spin at exactly the same speed, as if there was some state of ideal contentment I could reach at work, at home, in my friendships, etc., and only then could I let myself relax and be happy. It has taken me a long time to accept multiple states at once."